Steve Terrell's List of Best Lawyer Movies EVER
Here's my own personal list of the best lawyer and law-related movies EVER.
- To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) -- The timeless story of Atticus Finch, racial prejudice, courage, grace and humanity in the deep south.
- 12 Angry Men (1957) -- Intense drama in the jury room as 12 men explore the evidence -- and their own prejudices. Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb head an outstanding ensemble performance
- The Sweet Hereafter (1997) -- A school bus accident claims 14 lives, bringing a plaintiff's lawyer (remarkably played by Ian Holm) to the barren winter plains of Western Canada. The movie explores the pain of loss, which follows everyone -- even the lawyer.
- Chicago (2002). Stunning musical and winner of Best Picture Academy Award. Richard Gere is impeccable as the smooth talking Billy Flynn, master of the courtroom -- and the press conference. I wanna tap dance in the courtroom just like Billy!
- Anatomy of a Murder (1959) -- From a best seller written by a Michigan Supreme Court Justice, this Otto Preminger film of rape, murder and betrayal pulls no punches and remains perhaps the the best film depiction of courtroom drama. Jimmy Stewart is stellar as the unwilling defense attorney.
- Snow Falling on Cedars (2000) -- Beautifully set in the 1950s San Juan Islands of Washington State, the movie weaves complex relationships impacted by love, hate and prejudice over a half century, set against the backdrop of a murder trial. Max VonSydow is marvelous as the old lawyer defending his last great case.
- Miracle on 34th Street (1947) -- When lawyers were viewed as "good guys" -- saving the real Santa from the nuthouse, getting the girl, and finding a home in the country for the sweet child. Oh, how times have changed!
- Reversal of Fortune (1990) -- Before O.J. and Johnny Cochran, there was Klaus von Bulow and Alan Dershowitz. Narrated by Glenn Close as the comatose Sunny von Bulow, this follows Dershowitz handling Klaus' appeal. Jeromy Irons in amazing as Klaus von Bulow.
- Body Heat (1981) -- The screen sizzles in steamiest thriller ever. Kathleen Turner is HOT and William Hurt is just a poor schmutzy lawyer who can't help himself. And in the end, it is the only movie ever made where the dramatic final turn rests on the Rule Against Perpetuities. Should have paid more attention in Property 101.
- Philadelphia (1994) -- Tom Hanks Academy Award winning performance as aid-stricken young lawyer Andrew Beckett, who rightfully suspects he was fired from a big Philadelphia firm because of his disease. Denzel Washington is equally effective as the homophobic lawyer who os transformed while representing Beckett in his discrimination claim.
- Inherit the Wind (1960) -- Stanley Kramer produced and directed this fictionalized account of the Scopes "monkey trial. The real trial pitted the two great orators of the day -- agnostic Clarence Darrow against evangelist and former presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan ("You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. We will not be crucified upon a cross of gold!"). Spencer Tracy portrays the Darrow-like character and Frederick March portrays the Bryan-like character. They match skills and beliefs in sweltering rural Tennessee in 1925 until, as in real life, Tracy calls his star witness -- the opposing lawyer. To view the transcript of Darrow's examination of Bryan, click here.
- Erin Brockovich (2000) -- Julia Roberts won the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of this real-life paralegal. Using sass, determination, empathy and, uh, a couple of her finer assets, Brockovich was the driving force in winning what was at that time the largest settlement ever for pollution.
- My Cousin Vinny (1992) -- This is comedy but the courtroom scenes are far better than most dramas. Joe Pesci defends the two "yoots", Marisa Tomei won Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, and Fred Gwynn (Hermun Munster) gives a wonderful farewell performance as the judge.